Judge Says She Knows What’s Best for Homeschooled Christians
By James P. Tucker, Jr.
Agirl has been forced to attend public school by a judge who was concerned that she was a Christian who needed exposure to “world views.” As is true of properly homeschooled children, Amanda Kurowski was significantly ahead of her public school peers academically, but the court ruled her Christian faith was “too rigid.”
Amanda’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs . . . suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view,” said District Court Judge Lucinda V. Sadler.
So Amanda was forced into the fifth grade at an elementary school in Meredith, N.H. on Sept. 1. There have been other cases where courts intervened when parents refused medical care for their children because of religious beliefs. But the New Hampshire case is the first time a court ruled that “extreme” religious views alone were enough reason to interfere. The girl’s divorced father had asked the court to force her into a public school.
“Exposure to other points of view will decrease Amanda’s rigid adherence to her mother’s religious beliefs and increase her ability to get along with others and to function in a world that requires some element of independent thinking and tolerance for different points of view,” Judge Sadler said.
Her ruling said the child “appeared to reflect the mother’s rigidity on matters of faith.” The girl would be “best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate
multiple systems of belief and behavior.”
According to a brief filed by the girl’s
mother, Brenda Voydatch, a court-appointed guardian, Janice McLaughlin, dismissed critical evidence and key witnesses in the case because they were “connected to Christianity.”
When the mother tried to give the guardian material on homeschooling,* Mrs. McLaughlin said: “I don’t want to hear it. It’s all Christian-based.” Mrs. McLaughlin refused requests for comment.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is appealing on behalf of the girl. Douglas Napier, senior ADF counsel, suggested the court has a bias against Christians.
“What if this were Muslims who don’t want their children exposed to infidel thoughts”? he asked. “Can a judge come into my home—even if my wife and I agree to homeschool our children—and say it’s in their best interest to put them in a government school”? He added: “Does anybody believe a public school will broaden this girl’s views on comparative religious thought? The schools are the No. 1 censor of religious thought.”
New Hampshire state law mandates the court must find evidence of harm to a child before removing her from a homeschool environment, Napier said.
“The judge seems to have some allergic reactions to the fact that this talented 10-year-old girl has made some decisions on her faith,” he said. “The judge didn’t consider and weigh the constitutional rights of the mother to raise the child in the way she sees fit.”
The judge’s ruling is “unreasonable and inappropriate,” said Mike Donnelly, an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Va.
“The fact that the court talks about the religion of the child and says it thinks the child ought to be in public school because she needs to be socialized shows they have overstepped their authority, which is troubling,” he said. “The court cannot just on its own pull opinions out of thin air.”
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(Issue # 39, September 21 & 28, 2009)